Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 22:17-23:44; Mark 9:30-10:12; Psalm 44:1-8; Proverbs 10:19
Any sacrificial offering made my Israel to God had to be without defect. That is, it had to be perfect. Otherwise God would not accept it (Leviticus 22:20). There were two reasons behind this. First, offering an animal that had a defect wasn’t really a sacrifice. An animal that was lame or blind, for example, was of no use to a farmer. It could not be used to plow a field nor could it be sold. It was pretty much worthless. So offering it to God meant nothing. God wanted the sacrifices to mean something. He wanted the offerer to feel a loss in order to teach them that the payment for sins (what the sacrifice symbolized) cost something.
Which brings us to the second reason. These perfect sacrifices pointed to a coming, perfect, Messiah whose death would cost something. Jesus was that Messiah. His death cost Him a lot of pain. His death also cost God a lot of pain as He (God) had to watch His son being tortured. But the cost was worth it to God. The result of Jesus’s death was an open door to heaven so that those who believe could spend eternity with God.
Notice that if animal with defects was presented, God would reject it (Leviticus 22:20). There was only one way to get right with God back then and that was to offer a sacrifice according to God’s standard. Nothing else would be accepted. The same thing goes today. The only way to God is through the perfect sacrifice that is Jesus. No other way is available. As I mentioned the other day that isn’t closed-minded thinking. The fact that God gave up His son in order for there to be a way to heaven is very generous of Him. God went through a lot of pain and trouble for us. It is disrespectful (not to mention arrogant) of anyone to reject God’s effort in favor of their own way.
Leviticus 23 lists the seven festivals God gave to the Israelites and ordered them to observe. While this chapter may seem a little dry and repetitive, it actually contains some pretty cool stuff.
First, notice that God created time off. God doesn’t expect us to work all day every day. We need rest and we need parties! But notice that all the festival days are centered on God. We aren’t supposed to take time off to observe a new year or our independence. Or the birthday of a president or even a great Christian man like Martin Luther King. All our celebrations should be focused on God and what He has done for us.
Another cool thing about these festivals is that they have symbolic meaning regarding God’s plan for the human race:
- Passover represents Jesus being slain, like a Passover lamb, and His blood making us right with God.
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread is synonymous with sin being conquered when Jesus went to the grave.
- The Feast of Firstfruits represents Jesus’s resurrection as He was the first person to rise from the dead.
- Pentacost (Feast of Weeks) symbolizes the creation of the “church” or modern-day collection of believers.
- The Feast of Trumpets speaks to the Rapture when God will remove all living believers from the earth in the blink of an eye.
- The Day of Atonement foreshadows the time of affliction and salvation to be experienced by the Jewish people in the last days.
- The Feast of Tabernacles suggests the rest and comfort that God will provide His believers in eternity.
These festivals occurred throughout a calendar year but each one represented an event in God’s timetable for the universe. The events pointed to by the first 4 festivals have already occurred. The annual schedule of feasts included a time gap between Pentacost and the Feast of Trumpets (about 4 months). This was the time of harvest for Israel when they would gather their crops. That is the time in history we are living in now, where God is “harvesting” the population of the earth. At some point (in the not too distant future, I believe) the harvest time will end and the Rapture will occur as symbolized by the Feast of Trumpets.
The point of having Israel follow these, and only these, celebrations was so they would understand world events as they began to unfold and could help the rest of the world understand. Sadly, very few people pay any attention to these festivals. As fun as it is to celebrate Jesus’s birth (which may or may not have happened in December), it is not one of God’s planned celebrations.
I found it interesting how the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus what He meant in Mark 9:32. They had seen Jesus do awesome stuff. They believed that He was the Messiah and that He was sent from God. Yet they didn’t want to look stupid. God will never look at us that way. We (believers) are His children. His plan is to share everything that He is and has with us. Therefore there is no question that should go unasked. If we ask, God will tell us.
We see that the disciples still didn’t understand what was going to happen to Jesus in Mark 9:33-37. Despite hearing Him say that He was going to be killed they still seemed to think He was going to set up an earthly kingdom and they debate as to which of them will get the job of “Vice President” in Jesus’s regime. In this passage we again see Jesus ask a question but, like the previous time, He didn’t ask because He didn’t know. In this case He asked to convict the hearts of the disciples for discussing such a selfish topic. It worked.
Jesus’s words in Mark 9:43-48 are not meant to promote bodily harm. He has already told us that sin comes from the heart. So these words are clearly metaphorical. Cutting off a body part won’t reduce sin in a person’s life. But what Jesus is saying is that no measure is too extreme when it comes to truly removing sin from our lives. The penalty of sin is so terrible that any price is worth paying to be separated from it. A good modern-day example is television. With all the sexually provocative ads and shows on that lead to sinful thoughts and behaviors, it is not too steep a price to pay to eliminate television from your life. I did that years ago. And while it took some time of adjustment (I quickly realized I was addicted to it having watched so much of it since I was a child) my life is clearly better without it.
Whatever enemy you are dealing with today… be it an addiction of some sort, or depression, or anger… the only way to achieve victory is through the power of God (Psalm 44). Our own efforts (e.g. swords) will fail. Any man-made attempt to make his life better will not succeed. It may not go down in flames, but it will not succeed. This is also true regarding any efforts by man to make the world a better place. The United States, for example, has done all that it can do remove God from society while at the same time relying on the brain power of our elected officials to solve our problems. It clearly hasn’t worked. Things have only gotten worse.
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